The Celtics haven't provided fans with a ton of special moments inside the Garden this year, but I can guarantee you that the long-awaited return of a former Celtic—and the reaction that ensues—will send chills down the spines of every fan watching.
Kendrick Perkins' return to the city where we watched him grow and develop into one of the best defensive centers in the game has been talked about and waited for since he was ripped away from a team that was a serious championship contender just 11 months ago. The news of the trade, which broke minutes before the trade deadline was to pass, stunned all of us. There was no warning, no thought that Perk would actually leave Boston and no proper goodbye. Tonight, Boston gets to show how much they appreciate the hard work, grittiness and toughness that Perk brought with him onto the floor night in and night out. It was that mentality that the Celtics had prided themselves on during their recent playoff runs and something that continues to be missed by the current Celtics.
The ovation will be loud. Emotions will run high. Even Perk admits that he doesn't know how he'll react when that moment comes. (CSN New England)
"Just being back in the city where you grew up from being an 18-year-old boy, to a 26-year-old man," said Perkins, who was drafted by the Celtics in 2003 and was traded to the Thunder last February. "I hope I don't get too emotional. I gotta try and keep at least a little bit of a scowl on my face."
After going out for dinner with former teammate and best friend Rajon Rondo, Perkins saw a series of interviews with Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Rondo and Kevin Garnett discussing their relationship with Perkins and how he will always be family to them.
"I was hearing them say it about me. I had to catch myself," Perkins said. "It's kind of hard. You get emotional at times. At the same time, you have to come in and focus on playing basketball. So you have to balance out the two, which makes it really hard. You miss everybody around, you grew around and a relationship with . . . it's hard."
You don't know what you have until it's gone. Perk will never have the stat sheet of an All-Star NBA center. He'll never average 20 points or 15 rebounds. He'll never shoot 75 percent from the foul line. He'll never have a polished offensive game. It isn't about the numbers with Perk. It never was.
Instead, you actually had to watch the games and see him in action. You needed to see him make Dwight Howard look extremely average and un-Superman-like in the playoffs. You needed to see him play the kind of pick-and-roll defense that made the guards' jobs easier and made the team's defense look silky smooth. You needed to see him deny the clear lane to the basket by any means possible. You needed to see him play mean, play intense and constantly scowl.
Perk brought something to the Celtics that they still haven't been able to replace. He left it all on the floor. His effort and energy was never questioned. Everything he did was for the betterment of the team. Doc Rivers will always be quick to note that the Celtics never lost a playoff series with his regular starting lineup, which included Perk at center. He's the kind of player you'd love to have on your club. Or in this case, the kind of player you'd love to have on your club again.
Welcome home, Perk. Enjoy your moment.